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Celtics look to sweep the series from the Atlanta Hawks

The playoff bound Celtics host the lottery bound Hawks for their 4th and final meeting this season.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics continue their 2 game home stand as they host the Hawks for the 4th and final regular season game between these two teams. The Celtics lead the series 3-0 so far. They won a close one in Atlanta on November 6, 110-107. They also won 110-99 in Atlanta on November 18. They won for the third time in Boston 119-110 on February 2.

Atlanta broke a 2 game slide on Friday with a win over the Washington Wizards. The Celtics also broke a 2 game slide of their own on Friday with a win over the Chicago Bulls. Atlanta lost 7 of 8 games going into Friday’s win. The Celtics won 6 straight before a 2 game slide that ended with Friday’s win.

Atlanta has the worst record in the East and the 3rd worst record overall. Only the Suns with 20 wins and the Grizzlies with 21 wins have worse records than the Hawks. The Celtics are locked into the 2nd spot in the East, 3 games behind the Raptors and 5 games ahead of the Sixers who took over 3rd from the Cavs, who are now half a game behind Philly.

Both teams are coming off a win and looking for their second straight victory. The Celtics are 26-13 at home while the Hawks are 7-33 on the road. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Hawks are 3-7 in their last 10. Both teams will be missing key players with the Celtics looking to the playoffs and the Hawks looking for ping pong balls.

Dennis Schroder (ankle), Jaylen Morris (ankle), Kent Bazemore (knee), and Malcolm Delaney (ankle) are all out for the Hawks. For the Celtics, Kyrie Irving (knee), Gordon Hayward (ankle), Daniel Theis (knee) and Marcus Smart (thumb) all remain out. Marcus Morris will reportedly be held out of this game for rest and Guerschon Yabusele missed practice with a sore knee. An MRI came back clean, but he will sit out this game as well.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Shane Larkin
Jabari Bird
Kadeem Allen
Greg Monroe
Jonathon Gibson

Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Smart (Thumb) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Marcus Morris (rest) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Guerschon Yabusele (knee) out

Two Way Players
Jabari Bird
Kadeem Allen

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Hawks Starters

Hawks Reserves
Tyler Cavenaugh
Antonius Cleveland
Tyler Dorsey
Jeremy Evans
Damion Lee
Josh Magette
Mike Muscala
Miles Plumlee
Andrew White

Dennis Schroder (ankle) out
Jaylen Morris (ankle) out
Kent Bazemore (knee) out
Malcolm Delaney (ankle) out

Two Way Players
Josh Magette
Andrew White III

Head Coach
Mike Budenholzer

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Taurean Prince
Prince is the only player who started for the Hawks in their last meeting who is still starting in this one. He has been playing well for the Hawks with 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He had 31 points and 8 rebounds in the Feb 2 game between them. He is shooting 37.8% from beyond the arc and so staying with him on the perimeter is a must. Jayson sat out Friday’s game and should be rested and ready to keep Prince from having another big game.

Al Horford vs John Collins
Collins is averaging 10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. Collins is shooting 34.9% from beyond the arc and so Al needs to stay with him inside and out and limit his open looks from three. Like Jayson, Al should be rested after sitting out Friday’s game and should be ready for this one.

Honorable Mention
Aron Baynes vs Dewayne Dedmon
Dedmon is averaging 9.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He is shooting 35% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these two teams, Dedmon had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. Limiting him in this one will be key.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics remain first in the league with a defensive rating of 101.4 while the Hawks are 22nd with a defensive rating of 108.1. The Celtics have to keep making defense a priority and not let up on the effort necessary to get stops.

Take Care of the Ball - The Hawks are 4th in forcing turnovers, forcing 15.1 per game. They are fifth in the league with 17.6 points off turnovers. The Celtics have to avoid making sloppy passes and they have to be aware when dribbling to avoid turning the ball over as the Hawks will make them pay if they do.

Rebound - Rebounding gives the Celtics extra possessions and it also deprives the Hawks of the same. The Celtics are averaging 44.3 rebounds per game while the Hawks are averaging 42.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to continue to put out extra effort to win the battle of the boards.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the team that plays harder and that wants this win more. They have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls, in going to the basket, in getting stops on the defensive end, and in going after rebounds. They have to play harder and be more aggressive from start to finish. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of calls. It’s always easy to let up against losing teams, but if they do, they may end up with a loss as, in spite of their record, the Hawks play hard.

At Home - The Celtics are once again at home and the home crowd should be gearing up for the post season with strong support for the team. The Hawks are a young team and young teams often get rattled on the road. The Celtics need to take advantage of that and use the motivation from the crowd to get the win.

Next Man Up - The Celtics have been winning short handed as the young players and role players have stepped up to fill in for the injured players. The available players need to continue to step up and play harder to give the Celtics what they need in order to win.

What’s at Stake - The Hawks could possibly move down a spot in the race for ping pong balls if they win their last 2 games. The Celtics position for the playoffs is set, but they are trying to get the team into the best shape they can, in spite of the injuries, going into the first round of the playoffs. A win would benefit the Celtics but not so much the Hawks.

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